Many bodybuilders spend the majority of their time looking for the one training, nutrition or supplementation strategy that will miraculously catapult them into a new level of growth. The fact is, however, your mind is by far your most valuable training tool. When you use your mind to its fullest potential, even the worst strategy can have beneficial results. On the other hand, if you have a less-than-optimal mind-set, the very best strategy will not be as successful as it should be.
Make no mistake about it: Your mind leads your body. Getting yourself motivated to put forth your best effort will help you use your bodybuilding resources more efficiently.
1) Be clear about exactly what you want to accomplish.
You'll put yourself miles ahead of the majority of your buddies in the gym if you take the time to determine exactly what you want to accomplish from your efforts. It sounds too easy, but it works.
When you're clear on your specific goals, your brain will efficiently seek out all the available resources to help you reach them. Sometimes it seems like magic when an extremely helpful magazine article, a great role model or some cutting-edge information about a muscle-building diet suddenly appears. It isn't magic though: The knowledge comes to you because you're prepared to notice it.
2) Think big!
When you know exactly what you want to accomplish, be certain you're asking enough from yourself. Life is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Don't sit down at the dinnertable and wish you'd loaded a little more of this and that on your plate. You're capable of achieving more than you believe you can. In other words, think big!
"I want to become the Arnold Schwarzenegger of natural bodybuilding!" said ABA Natural Mr. Universe John Hanson. When I read that in one of the bodybuilding magazines years ago, I was impressed and inspired. He had the courage to set an outrageously ambitious goal. Hanson's ability to think big was the catalyst that got me on the road to where I am today. "If he can do it, so can I!" I said.
People set their goals based on what they believe about themselves. If your goal is to get big, you must first think big. Walk, talk, stand and carry yourself as if you were already the person you're trying to become-and start doing it immediately. Your actions form your beliefs. Consequently, your beliefs propel your actions.
3) Set specific goals.
There's an old saying: You can't hit the bull's-eye if you don't have a target. In other words, you'll never achieve anything great by accident. Often the toughest part of being successful is setting the goal in the first place. To make your dreams come true, you must set specific, incremental goals.
How many bodybuilders take the time to determine exactly what they hope to gain from their efforts? If you haven't, you're not alone. It's estimated that 97 percent of Americans have no specific goals whatsoever-a figure that certainly applies to the gym population. If you want to succeed, bust into that 3 percent.
4) Surround yourself with positive, supportive, goal-oriented winners.
The people you choose to spend your time with have a tremendous effect on your performance in the gym, your expectations of yourself, your optimism and the quality of many other areas of your life. Sometimes the effect is so subtle that you may not even notice the positive or negative influences until much later.
If you surround yourself with people who train at a higher level of intensity and efficiency, you'll become more intense and efficient. If you're around people who are optimistic that their endeavors will eventually pay off if they train intelligently and are patient enough, you'll become more optimistic, you'll train more intelligently and you'll be more patient too. If your training partners believe it's truly possible to build an admirable physique without the use of drugs, the chances are very good that you'll adopt the same belief.
Conversely, if you're in the company of people who expect very little from themselves and their training, you'll be more apt to be satisfied with your current level of training. If your acquaintances feel bodybuilding contests are too political and that only the favorites have a chance to win, at the very least that thought will always be in the back of your mind when a show is approaching. If the guys in the gym believe that anyone with a good physique just has to be on drugs, you'll be thinking about that when your on stage. It's ultimately your responsibility to keep yourself in the proper state of mind. A good way to remember that you're truly capable of achieving your goals is to create a list of your past accomplishments. When doubt sets in, refer to them to remind yourself of who you really are.
5) Become courageous.
Courage is the weapon that will enable you to combat your fears and reach your goals. Courage is like muscle: Everyone has it to some degree, but it can only be strengthened if you use it and build on it consistently. You'll need tremendous courage to rise to the challenge of taking your body to a higher level of development.
6) Raise your standards.
No matter who you are or what you've accomplished, you can always achieve a higher level of development. Adopting that single belief can lead to massive improvements in your physique over time. You'll feel in control of your destiny when you truly believe you can always improve-instead of believing your progress is in the hands of the gods. You'll feel challenged-but empowered-instead of feeling helpless and disadvantaged. Raising your standards can be as simple as adding five more pounds to a particular exercise, grinding out one more repetition, using slightly stricter form or all of the above. You can tack on five more minutes to your cardiovascular workout, choose a tougher exercise like the Gauntlet instead of the stationary bike or keep your hands off the support rails for just a few minutes longer. You can adhere strictly to your nutritious bodybuilding diet for 10 days in a row instead of just seven. There's always something you can improve on.
As great as your achievements have been, if you want to take yourself to a higher level, you'll need to do things differently. Too many bodybuilders plateau at a certain level of development and get discouraged-without implementing a single new strategy. Be sure you never stop growing and learning.
Too many bodybuilders compare themselves to those who have accomplished less than they have. Don't make that mistake. It will only make you settle for inferior results or make you complacent with the results you're already getting.
If you become a little tougher on yourself, life will become a lot easier for you. Success will become a reality instead of just a dream.
7) Overcome your fears.
If it's so simple to set goals, why don't most bodybuilders bother to do it? The answer is fear. The biggest obstacle to setting goals that will lead you to realize your dreams is fear of failure. Everyone wants to avoid disappointment and embarrassment. Many people accomplish that by avoiding challenging situations altogether.
If you don't think fear of failure applies to you, ask yourself one question: Do you have the body you want? Have you done everything possible to build your ideal physique? If the answer to either question is no, fear is more than likely stopping you.
"But I have average genetics," you say, or "I'm too young," or "I'm too old." Maybe you "don't have enough time to eat properly" or "don't have the time to get to the gym consistently." Aren't those excuses just a form of fear? Excuses are an obstacle because they create limiting beliefs. How can you put 100 percent effort toward a goal if you believe it's impossible to achieve-before you even try? Will you even make it to a goal if you feel it's impossible to achieve? Of course not. You'd be setting yourself up for disappointment.
I say, So what? So what if you were to set a goal and fail? Big deal! Although there's the possibility you'll experience pain, disappointment or embarrassment if you don't reach your goals, it's even more devastating if you don't even try. As they say in baseball, it's better to go down swinging than to take a called third strike.
8) Become incredibly consistent.
You won't be successfu1 if all you do is produce a few good workouts or eat well for a few days. You must string together a series of what I call outstanding bodybuilding days. These are days in which I do everything according to my plan: I train the way I set out to train. I eat the way I need to eat in order to grow and do it at the right times. I take all my supplements and time them perfectly, and I make sure I sleep enough. That type of consistency ensures I'll wake up a better bodybuilder tomorrow than I was when I woke up today.
When you get into the habit of doing all the things you need to do to become your very best, you'll develop unstoppable momentum. Things that at one time seemed difficult to get yourself motivated to do will become incredibly easy. You'll begin to fine-tune your strategies and start looking for even better ones. You'll no longer question whether you will succeed but, rather, how far you'll go. That's when bodybuilding starts to be really fun!
9) Become unbelievably persistent.
Most bodybuilders give up on their dreams or mentally burn out long before they come close to achieving their full genetic potential. They just aren't persistent enough to learn the right path to success.
Persistence is the ability to keep on trying different methods with the absolute certainty that, although you've been unsuccessful in the past, your very next attempt will bring the desired results. If your original plan doesn't work, you need to come up with another one. If your backup plan doesn't work, you need to find yet another one. Winners keep looking for successful training, nutrition and supplementation techniques until they find them.
10) Confidently address your challenges.
If you take into account everyone who trains with weights, whether he or she has been training for three days, three months, three years or three decades, 99 percent of us don't use steroids or any other illegal physique-enhancing drugs. Ironically, most natural bodybuilders feel as though they're the only ones who train drug-free. We walk around as though we're underdogs who have two strikes against us. We strive for our dreams bogged down with a poor-me attitude. When we do encounter challenges like plateaus, the negativity is cemented into our brains. "I can't do it because I'm natural!" becomes a frequent lament. It's a debilitating mentality, and it's pounded into our heads from the very first day we start training.
Regardless of what the bodybuilding magazines or your misguided friends want you to believe, we make up the overwhelming majority of trainees. It's time to obliterate our disempowering identity and step up to the challenge of realizing our genetic potential.
Stop worrying about what you can't do or how big you can't get because you don't take drugs. You're wasting your valuable mental energy and precious time judging the actions of the guys who use drugs because what they do has no direct effect on how well you can build your physique. Believing otherwise is just a false, crippling perception that people create for themselves.
Focus on what you want out of life-not on what you don't want. How many people do you know who worry constantly about what they don't want their jobs to be, what they don't want their lives to be, what they don't want to happen to them?
Focusing on what you don't want will never lead to outstanding results. Focusing on what you do want will give you the best possible chance of achieving your goals. As natural bodybuilders we have unlimited potential to tap-but only if we learn how to develop the awesome resource of our minds.
11) Setting bigger sweeter, more fulfilling goals works better for some people.
Different types of goals work for different people. To get you motivated, you may have to shoot for something that's more inspiring than "Don't miss a workout this month." Instead, you may want to set a goal like, "Win my weight class at the local bodybuilding championships next year." Not only will the rewards be sweeter if you achieve your goal, but missing a workout will probably never be an option for you. When you have an inspiring goal, every workout has more meaning and your sessions become more efficient. That goes for the rest of your program as well, as you also put pressure on yourself to never miss a meal or your daily serving of creatine or even a good night's sleep.
12) Enjoy the practice of bodybuilding.
The ultimate objective of bodybuilding should not be simply to develop big muscles, lift heavy weights, earn trophies or command adoring glances; it should be to enjoy the entire process and be happy with the person you're creating.
Bodybuilding is about celebrating the ups and enduring the downs, and successful bodybuilding is about how far you've come from the beginning until now. It's also about who you ultimately become, about developing an iron will and amazing discipline.
Bodybuilding is the adventure of building your character from someone who was once a little weak and afraid into someone who's physically strong and mentally powerful. It's about applying the lessons you learn about yourself in the gym to your regular life and turning your passion into a fulfilling experience for yourself and the people you love.